We’re looking along Beach Avenue in the 1960s in an Archives image that was shot by Leslie Sheraton. On the right is the Sylvia Hotel, and on the extreme left is the last remaining building on the water side of the street; Englesea Lodge. Like the Sylvia Hotel, Englesea Lodge was designed by W P White, a Seattle architect. In some ways it had a similar design, with brick cladding although it’s the base rather than the upper story that has a white finish. It was smaller than the Sylvia, two storeys shorter, and cost less to build – the Permit was issued in 1911 and E Cook built it for $115,000.
The developer listed on the permit was Annie Davidson, although the Province newspaper said it was built for A A Davidson. The Davidsons arrived in Vancouver from Victoria, where Augustus Alexander Davidson ran the jewelery store that traded as Davidson Brothers. His brother, Cicero Davidson, ran the Vancouver store, and also invested in real estate, building an apartment building and a retail building, both still standing today.
It looks as if Augustus (although he seemed to have been known by both of his names at different times) and Annie arrived in the city around the turn of the century. They were first shown in the 1900 Street Directory when A A Davidson was a partner with his brother in the jewelery business, and also had a real estate office. The family briefly lived on Melville Street, but then moved a block away from Cicero on Burrard Street. The 1901 Census shows Alexander aged 38, born in New York and coming to Canada in 1864. That birth date is at odds with his marriage and death certificates, which are more likely to be accurate, which show him born in 1864. He married Annie McKeil Adams, aged 21 who had been born in Victoria in 1893 when he was shown to be born in Lockport, New York. According to the 1901 census his brother Cicero was born in Ontario 1859, but the 1871 and 1881 census records only show Augustus living with a brother called Freman, born in 1862 in the US. Augustus was shown living with his mother, Mary Jane (34) and older brother Freman Davidson in Guelph in 1871, and both boys were shown born in the US. Augustus and Freman were still in Guelph in 1881, but living with John Davidson aged 49 and his wife Elsie, who was aged 39. That makes us think that Cisero may have changed his name (from Freman, or Freeman) when he moved west, abandoning the even more unusual father’s mother’s family name.
In 1897 both Augustus and his brother, Cicero were two of the four owners of a $250,000 mining company, Winchester Gold Mines of Fairview, Victoria, formed to purchase the Winchester claim in Yale. The same year they were also partners in the $250,000 Shamrock Mining Co with the intent of taking over the Shamrock claim in Osoyoos. Cicero was also briefly a defendant in a case against the Orphan Boy Gold Mining Company on McCulloch Creek where the owners (including C N Davidson) were accused of defrauding shareholders. Augustus seems to have maintained active involvement in the region’s mining activity, but there’s no mention of Cicero retaining an interest.
In 1911 Augustus and his family were living at 2030 Beach Avenue, which is where the lodge was built a year later. The notoriously unreliable 1911 census shows A A Davidson was aged 44, born in 1867 (five years older than the previous census held ten years earlier had suggested). Annie was shown as aged 40, (so she had added eleven years in a decade). While in 1901 they had a son, Randolf aged 7 and another, Douglas aged 4, ten years later there was John, aged 18, Douglas aged 14 and a daughter, Elsie, who was 7. (We assume John and Randolf are the same child, following the family preference for name switching to try to confuse future historians).
Augustus died in 1950 aged 85; Annie was 88 when she died in 1960. Eve Lazarus chronicled the end of the Lodge in 1981. The City of Vancouver had acquired all the property along the waterfront, and while the houses had been cleared away and the park extended to the street, the Lodge was too big to treat in quite the same way. It cost the City $375,000 in 1967, and although rents covered the cost of purchase, by 1975 it was decided to demolish it anyway to complete the undeveloped park. Then that decision was reversed and in 1980 29 of the 45 apartments remained occupied, and there was talk from the city of investing $1.3 million to turn the building into senior’s housing. In February 1981 a suspicious fire was set, the fire brigade were said to have been instructed to let it burn, and with the lucky outcome of no injuries or deaths the Park Board had a contiguous park along the foreshore.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2009-001.106